Two of the lucky few were sitting in a 24hour guarded Aire just south of Vienna. At €19 per night + EHU it’s not the cheapest place to park around here, but it safe and it’s only 150m to the nearest (look out for the big ‘U’) Underground station, which, with the correct tickets, should whoosh you into the centre of Vienna in about half an hour. For €13.30 each, a 48h travel pass will cover you for all busses and Underground trains within the Vienna area, good value considering the size of the city. There is also a ‘tourist Vienna pass’ available to cover travel and entry into some top attractions, but having worked out exactly what we wanted to see, it made sense for us just to opt for the travel tickets only. We’ve negotiated a few underground train systems in our time, London, Paris, Prague and a few other lesser ones and I still think it’s the best way of shifting loads of folk around a city. They have their draw-backs, but in general, I love ‘em. Back at camp, the showers are clean and adequate, the drive–through MoHo service area very usable and once the city traffic had died down after about 7pm, it was surprisingly quiet too. Reception staff couldn’t do enough to help you with information about Vienna and how to get there.
It was late in the afternoon when we’d arrived, so we jumped onto the train at 4pm and made a ‘B-line’ for the Ferris wheel & fair area. The Ferris wheel, re-built after WW2, the original ‘woody’ bomb-damaged, this time made of iron, with railway type carriages and has been revolving for 70 years. You can book a carriage for a private party, or have dinner whilst in rotation with your beloved, complete with mood music, candle-light and killer views over Vienna. I know what you’re asking yourself now, ‘Did ya splash out then?’ Answer, not a bloody chance! My excuse is, I’m still having trouble using my Halifax Clarity card.
We did fork out €9 each to share a carriage with 4 other people, for a very slow rotation to get a very different view of Vienna. From the top, you can appreciate how big the inner city really is.
Back on terra-firma, twilight rapidly advancing and time to hit the city streets, got to cross the city and find the Cathedral, time to play ‘pop-up-tourist’ on the tube.
If I ever get a knock on the head and only remember 1 thing about Vienna, it will be the vast amount of Baroque architecture and statues. It’s everywhere, naughty, tongue-in-cheek poses followed by great warriors of old, taking on a couple of lions with his bare hands. At one point, I stood transfixed looking at one of these statues for a good while, I just couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with it. Then it dawned on me, that lion was not even half the size it should have been, hence, the warrior looked like a mountain of a man…a gigantic lion-killer of a bloke, and of course they were, masters of the universe! This stuff was created to strike fear into the hearts of the opponent. It’s also a trick of ‘size by significance’, like the way South America was purposefully always drawn bigger than Africa on early maps.
It’s not all Baroque, there’s a mish-mash of all styles are here. You never know what’s coming around the next corner. But it’s all very showy, chest beating flamboyance at it’s best. The “Rathouse”, or town hall building being a prime example, I mean, come on, it’s a ‘Town hall’ for Pete’s sake!
In amongst all the concrete and marble ‘masterpieces’ are some very nice inner city green spaces. When all the lion battering, snake strangling, serpent slaying statues have given you a head-ache, they are the perfect place to (hide) retire to, just for a breather.
That concludes day one.
Day two was all about the Schönbrunn Palace and gardens. Once owned by the Hasburgs, Austria’s royal family, now a neoclassical property of the state, €20 will get you an audio assisted tour of 40 of the most lavish palace rooms you may ever see. Get there early, it’s the top Vienna attraction. Banquet rooms, concert rooms (Vienna is the city of music after all), bedrooms and rooms just dedicated to valuables nicked from the Chinese to complete the tour, exit via the gift shop, no photo’s please. Angie loved it. I got a bit bored halfway around. All this lavish wealth and opulence attained by one family (and this was only one house), turns my stomach. I just walk around thinking, ‘how much good could this amount of wealth could have done?’ Did they really need a Japanese gold leaf decorated tea-set, when the local hospital didn’t have enough blankets to go around? (just an example but you get my point). I still find in-equality on this scale, disgusting.
A pleasant wander around the free bit of the French styled gardens, so vast they contain a Orangerie, a Maze and a Zoo, rounds the day off nicely. None of which we entered, because all were extra to the initial price of entry. When will they ever stop bleeding the pesants dry?
Vienna wears its gold-plated heart, echo’s of former wealth and power on it’s sleeve. It’s a 40 piece orchestra at full pelt ‘in-yer-face’ noise and it makes no apologies for it. It’s the kind of city that likes to please your eyes every time you turn another corner. For the most part, it succeeds. The new and vibrant has been shoe-horned into the cracks left by the huge former (rich) rulers of the planet, nay…Universe!. Where the ‘men as big as lions’ once ruled, a gourmet burger bar with craft beers now stand. Refreshments for the many tourists pounding the busy streets of the once mighty and powerful Vienna. Once again, you need to be rich to eat here!
The last corner, the very last treat Vienna offers the weary traveller isn’t visual.
Over the mid-week hump now and kicking-down-hill to the weekend. Have a good one.
We are off to Lake Bled in Slovenia next.